Editor's Note: The above video is from April 30, 2016.
ALAMEDA – Connor Cook was surprisingly calm considering he’s just a week into a brand new offensive scheme. The Raiders fourth-round quarterback ran a full practice just a few days after cracking the playbook, throwing to receivers he knew by number rather than name.
Friday’s practice wasn’t perfect. Rookie minicamp sessions never are. Cook was in command early in his professional evolution despite the fact he’s learning and applying on the fly.
Early impressions are good for someone the Raiders traded up to get.
“He’s been outstanding,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He comes in, had a tremendous career and is very humble. Obviously he is intelligent. He asks good questions. He’s got arm talent. Now it’s a matter of getting familiar of what we do and how we do it.”
A rookie’s first week is typically an information dump. The Raiders throw a ton at young players at the start, and then get into detail work and practical application. That isn’t overwhelming at some spots. Quarterback is not one of them. Scheme mastery is essential for a position that must know more than most.
Even after Cook’s first formal practice, the Michigan State product’s head wasn’t spinning. Quarterback coach Todd Downing has been pacing lessons well, to maximize the time he has with rookies before the veterans return.
Cook seems comfortable in this element, especially coming from the Spartans’ pro-style scheme.
“I think I can pick up on some things pretty quickly,” Cook said. “The concepts that we run here are pretty similar to the concepts that we ran at Michigan State, just a different language. They might call it a ‘glock’ route, we might call it a ‘glance.’ Or we might call it a ‘comeback,’ they might call it a ‘Mars’ or whatever it is. Certain words are mixed up a little bit, but other than that I think I’ve been picking it up pretty well.”
Cook didn’t seem lost, though a few throws didn’t meet their mark. That’s expected this early in the process, especially while working with undrafted free agents and tryout players fighting to make an impression.
He led the practice well, which is half the battle for a young quarterback. His actions will be under close watch from the outside, after pre-draft questions about his leadership that might’ve caused a drop in the draft. That reputation was unwarranted, according to fellow Raiders draft pick and Michigan State product Shilique Calhoun.
“Connor is a great leader,” Calhoun said. “He was a great leader at Michigan State. We won ball games because of Connor. Coming in here, he gets a new chance to go ahead and show everybody what he’s about. But all that stuff is outside of the facilities. There’s nothing that’s in-house. You can’t focus on that too much. It doesn’t matter for us. We know what kind of guy he is and we’re going to move forward.”
The Raiders rookie minicamp continues through Sunday. Veterans return after that, as the squad pushes through four weeks of OTAs. Cook signed his contract on Monday, and has made a solid first-impression.
“After having him throughout the week in meetings and then today getting a lit bit of work with some of the younger guys that are here with us this weekend,” Del Rio said, “I think he’s off to a great start.”